All thirty Masterton Trophy nominees are in, and now it’s time to see who the Professional Hockey Writers Association thinks “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
Before we meet this year’s crop of hopefuls, let’s get a quick refresher on the history behind the trophy and what it really means beyond the official league verbiage.
On January 13, 1968, William “Bat” Masterton, a center for the Minnesota North Stars, was knocked to the ice head-first by a pair of Oakland Seals. Like nearly everyone else in the NHL at the time, he was not wearing a helmet, so his injuries were catastrophic. Thirty hours after he was admitted to Fairview-Southdale Hospital in Edina, Minnesota, he was removed from life support. The players who hit him carried that incident with them for the rest of their lives. The officials on the ice and Masterton’s wife, Carol, made it plain that they held no ill will toward anyone. This was a tragic accident.
Firsthand accounts by those who knew Masterton describe him as a good person who worked hard to get in the league. He was a former NCAA star who played in the Canadiens’ system until league expansion afforded him the chance to play for an NHL team. At the age of 29, Masterton was the first player to sign with the newly created Minnesota North Stars. On the Wikipedia page devoted to Masterton, North Stars head coach, Wren Blair, is cited as someone who was happy to have him on the roster.
“Because he had a habit of giving everything he had for every second he was on the ice, Bill was the type of player who didn’t have to score a lot of goals to help a club.”
So that’s Bill Masterton: good guy, hard worker, team player, and most important, someone who did not give up. That last thing on the list, not giving up, wanting to lace up and play so much that they’re willing to ignore bad luck, bad timing, bad health, will get a man nominated. Or maybe they just do stuff. In most cases, the guys who walk to the stage to accept the trophy are darned near heroic. Here is the list of nominees in alphabetical order by team with a synopsis about why the PHWA chose them.
- Anaheim Ducks Andrew Cogliano – Perseverance, dog lover, nice to fans, not fazed by stretches of bad play.
- Arizona Coyotes Max Domi – Type 1 diabetic who has to constantly watch his blood glucose levels, even during games, outspoken advocate for DM awareness.
- Boston Bruins Jonas Gustasson – Venerable 31-year-old camp tryout who surprised the BOS front office by not needing a walker to get to the pipes and being good.
- Buffalo Sabres Ryan O’Reilly – Workaholic who stays out on the ice until he’s satisfied he’s practiced enough. Would have been killed in his sleep had he attended law school.
- Calgary Flames Mark Giordano – An undrafted dark horse who worked his way to the NHL.
- Carolina Hurricanes Nathan Gerbe – Two-time Masterton nominee, works with military support charities, may tie with Barry Trotz for NHL/Susan Lucci Good Sport Ribbon.
- Chicago Blackhawks Michal Roszival – Spent part of the season in recovery from surgery, came back to respectable stats and ice time.
- Colorado Avalanche Carl Soderberg – Detached retina after taking a stick to the orb when he was 22, may meet and exceed career high numbers this season.
- Columbus Blue Jackets Fedor Tyutin – Plays through injuries, does stuff.
- Dallas Stars Jamie Benn – Occasionally comes back from the future to help young John Connor and get his hips retooled.
- Detroit Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk – Wants to change up his decor after he built a coffee table using his Lady Byng trophies as legs. Seriously, he wants a complete set to take back to his home planet.
- Edmonton Oilers Matt Hendricks – Played hurt for four different clubs, does stuff, nice guy.
- Florida Panthers Jaromir Jagr – Somebody has to be Gordie Howe.
- Los Angeles Kings Vincent Lecavalier – The Flyers were ready to turn Lecavalier into glue. Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter stepped in to be Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney to his Velvet. One of the best comeback stories of the season.
- Minnesota Wilds Nate Prosser – Hard worker, team player, locker room gold, all around good guy.
- Montreal Canadiens Mike Condon – Stepped from behind Cary Price’s huge shadow and into his skates to be the wall for the Canadiens.
- Nashville Predators Carter Hutton – The Predators goalie who isn’t Pekka Rinne, meaning he has to keep sharp for long stretches without playing, lots of charity work.
- New Jersey Devils Andy Greene – Longevity and stick-to-itiveness, does stuff.
- New York Islanders Travis Hamonic – Kept his personal stuff personal, remained professional after request for trade was leaked to the media, should be canonized.
- New York Rangers Mats Zuccarello – Multiple head injuries sidelined but did not stop Zucarello. Unfortunately, the movie pitting him against Batman was a critical flop.
- Ottawa Senators Zack Smith – Returned after being sidelined for four months with a wrist injury.
- Philadelphia Flyers Shayne Gostisbehere – Tore an ACL last season, native Floridian, known as “The Ghost.”
- Pittsburgh Penguins Pascal Dupuis – Monty Python’s Black Knight of the NHL, multiple injuries — including blood clots — were a minor inconvenience, pure darned cussedness.
- St. Louis Blues Brian Elliott – Underappreciated after stellar play for STL.
- San Jose Sharks Joe Thornton – Respectable stats, took losing his ‘C’ like a champ, does stuff.
- Tampa Bay Lightning Anton Stralman – Blue line star for the Bolts, does not give up, does stuff.
- Toronto Maple Leafs James Reimer – Made the best of a tough situation while staying professional and supportive.
- Vancouver Canucks Dan Hamhuis – Hamhuis is returning the love to VAN by mentoring, continuing to be a team player, and being locker room gold during this tough transitional season from the team, all while dealing with potentially career-ending injuries.
- Washington Capitals Dmitry Orlov – Working on comeback from serious wrist injury.
- Winnipeg Jets Dustin Byfuglien – Embattled and often underrated player is finally getting some respect, love from Team USA, and the understanding that he needs to stay on the Blue Line.
All of the nominees seem like nice guys, but someone has to win. Who will get the trophy? Likely candidates in no particular order would be Lecavalier, Dupuis, Benn, and Zuccarello. Winners will be announced at the end of the season. Until then, have fun predicting the outcome.
[Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images]